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The Google app takes on WebMD with an intelligent symptom search

TechCrunch TechCrunch 20/06/2016 Sarah Buhr

If you’ve ever turned to the interwebs when feeling sick you may have started worrying you had a deathly, flesh-eating virus instead of the common cold. Google aims to eliminate some of that anxiety and confusion in the following days with a few tweaks to the Google app.

The Google app works by voice command searches for things like the weather in San Francisco or asking it to time something cooking on the stove. Google now plans to bring a smarter symptom search to the app by combing through the millions of health conditions mentioned in web results on the platform (about one percent of all searches) and then checking them against medical information collected from doctors through the Knowledge Graph.

Soon you’ll be able to ask the Google app to tell you what a “headache on one side” means and Google will serve up a list of related conditions like “headache,” “migraine,” “tension headache,” “cluster headache,” “sinusitis,” and “common cold”).

“For individual symptoms like ‘a headache,’ we’ll also give you an overview description along with information on self-treatment options and what might warrant a doctor’s visit,” Google wrote in a recent blog post about the update.

The new development could prove quite useful. Right now most of us simply type a search and rely on the mercy of amateurs or the occasionally hilarious diagnosis on WebMD (the last time I went there it suggested I had a muscle cramp, gallstones or kidney cancer. It was a muscle cramp).

Google’s Cloud Machine Learning platform powers voice-command search in the app and could help refine searches overtime to bring better results based on what Google knows about you.

The update is set to roll out on mobile first, in English and in the U.S., in the next few days. Google says it would like to add additional symptoms, languages and offer the update in more countries over time.

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